Offices Are Going Green – Gradually

Many workers say they’re making eco-friendly choices…but incentives never hurt.

The last few years have seen a “green” wave that’s been rolling for decades swell to a peak. As nations pledge to reduce their carbon emissions, cities move toward more sustainable transport and eateries ditch disposable straws, it’s hardly a surprise that workplaces are following suit.

A new Office Pulse Survey found that 59% of 538 professionals in the US and Canada say their offices have made environmentally-friendly changes in the last 3 years. This is far more common in larger offices – that number jumps to 70% for offices of over 250.

But while over half (54%) of respondents say their workplaces consider themselves “green,” not all employees would agree. Just 40% of workers consider their companies to be environmentally friendly.

It’s Not Easy Being Green

Since sustainability can touch every part of a company’s operations, from its investments to the maintenance of its offices, few places manage to tick every box – though many are trying. Some of the most common sustainable choices workers reported included offering recycling bins, shutting off lights or electronics when not in use and even going entirely digital.


Providing recycling bins


Shutting off lights / electronics when not in use


Going digital


Providing reusable cutlery / dishware


Being located in a LEED-certified building


Cutting out disposable cutlery / dishware

Despite those moves, workers had other suggestions. Some of the most common sustainable changes workers said they’d like to see at their offices included using green cleaning products (24%), switching to recycled materials (24%) and cutting out disposable dishware (21%).

The most in-demand offering, though, was incentives (34%) – something just 7% of people say their offices currently offer. Public transit reimbursement, contests and work from home programs were the most highly sought-after initiatives.

What kind of “green” incentives do you wish your office offered?

Transit reimbursement (59%)

Work From Home program (45%)

Bike credit (28%)

Contests (57%)

Carpool program (33%)

Beyond making a difference to current employees, a workplace’s green moves could help entice new candidates. Almost one-third (32%) of professionals say a company’s sustainability efforts would be a factor in their job search. This is highest among senior managers (53%), media professionals (43%) and men (40%).

Putting the “I” in Environment

As companies press on with their environmental changes, individual workers have their own choices to make. Sustainability is a consideration for many, with 74% of Canadians and 63% of Americans saying “I genuinely think it’s necessary to be green” best matches their own sentiment.

What best describes your sentiment about going green?


I genuinely think it’s necessary 63%
I’m not trying to be 12%
I do it to fit in at the office 11%
Corporate incentives encourage me 9%


I genuinely think it’s necessary 74%
I’m not trying to be 12%
I do it to fit in at the office 1%
Corporate incentives encourage me 8%

The coffeemaker, that bastion of conversation and a way to refuel throughout the day, can also be a hub for waste. The most common type reported in offices was one that used disposable pouches or pods of coffee (45%), a model which accounts for millions of discarded pods worldwide per year.  Drip or filter machines largely made up the rest, with 35%.

When it comes to a greener cup o’ joe, the cup is also important. While many coffee companies have pressed pause on the use of reusable mugs during the COVID-19 pandemic, before that, almost half (46%) of North American workers said they used an average of 0 disposable cups per workweek, with Canadians (60%) leading the charge.

On average, how many disposable cups do you use per workweek?


disposable cups Americans


disposable cups Canadians

It makes sense, then, that over three-quarters (78%) of workers either keep or bring reusable dishware, like mugs, cups and plates, to the office. This is most common among media professionals (89%), women (82%) and Millennials (81%).

If the stainless steel straw you got for the holidays has been sitting unused in a drawer, you might be in the minority: Of those who keep reusable items around, 98% say they actually use them.

  • Employees in media/marketing are those most likely to use disposable cups: 28% say they use 6-10 per workweek, and 24% use 3-5
  • Women (75%) were more likely than men (55%) to say they genuinely think it’s necessary to go green
  • 40% of Canadians said their offices compost, compared to just 12% of Americans
  • 45% of Canadians said their offices have gone digital, compared with 29% of Americans

“Whether your office has a lone recycling bin or a whole host of sustainability initiatives, it’s safe to say that the years to come will bring many new ways to go “green.” And if workplaces are able to meet their employees’ desire for incentives, even the reluctant might find themselves reaching for a reusable mug.”

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